Tag Archives: muffins

Spiced Pumpkin (Savoury) Muffins

Halloween is nearly upon us again, and just as night follows day, food blogs across the world are making things using pumpkin.

Never one to ignore an obvious trend, I’m doing likewise, but not for me the sweetness of pumpkin pies, ice-cream or cupcakes. And, while we’re on the topic, something I just really do not get is the new phenomenon in the UK, the sudden appearance of pumpkin spice lattes. I’m sure they are delicious, but I like coffee that tastes like coffee, and prefer any extra hit sweetness and spices to come in biscuit form. I mean, does it even include pumpkin flavour? Or is it just the spices? Well, I guess it will just remain a mystery to me.

Forsaking sweetness, I’ve opted instead for something savoury. Spiced pumpkin muffins, not unlike a savoury cake I made a while ago, with roasted pumpkin, various seeds, cheese and spices. In a bit of a nod to pumpkin pie, I’ve added a dash of allspice to give it extra flavour, so when you combine it with strong savoury flavours like Parmesan and dried tomatoes, it really is very different and absolutely delicious.

pumpkin_muffin2

pumpkin_muffin

I made these muffins with red kabocha squash, which is ideal. It looks a lot like a traditional pumpkin, but it has bright orange, sweet flesh. This really matters, because the pumpkins you see for carving into lanterns can end up a bit watery and pale-looking. Kabocha stays bright and firm. I cooked it by roasting it with a drizzle of honey and some pumpkin oil, so it developed its sweetness further and took on a slight nutty flavour too.

The list of ingredients on these muffins looks rather long, but it is actually a doddle to make. It is the traditional muffin method – mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry in another. The just mix, spoon and bake. The result is really quite delicious – the sweet pumpkin, the spices and the strong savoury flavour from the cheese and the tomatoes. The spices can be customised according to taste, but I think the mixture of dried herbs, turmeric and allspice is great.

Now all we have to do is sit back and ride out the mega-storm that is brewing off the south-west coast of Britain. It’s all predicted to be chaos tomorrow morning…well, at least I’ve got enough to eat in the meantime!

To make pumpkin muffins (makes 15):

• 50g olive oil
• 110g sour cream
• 275ml milk
• 2 medium eggs
• 150g self-raising flour
• 150g wholemeal flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 50g Parmesan, grated
• 25g pistachios, chopped
• 2 sun-dried tomatoes, finely sliced
• 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
• 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
• 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
• 1 teaspoon dried herbs
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
• 200g chopped cooked pumpkin
• pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and grated Parmesan, to decorate

1. Line two muffin trays. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

2. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, sour cream, milk and eggs until smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, combine all the other ingredients until well mixed. Add the liquid ingredients, and mix quickly until just combined – don’t worry if there are little lumps, it’s better to under-mix than over-mix.

4. Add two tablespoons of mixture to each muffin case. Top each muffin with a few pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a sprinkling of cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

We’ve summer, and it was great. I found myself free to enjoy the warm days that we were fortunate enough to have, but now, the sunny days have passed and there is a noticeable chill in the morning and evening air. We are being treated to some amazing sunsets at the moment in the early evening, and while occasionally you feel the sun on your face and enjoy the warmth, there is no doubt about it – autumn is here. There are apples on the trees in the park, and we’ve got a couple of months of falling leaves ahead of us, before we find ourselves huddled around real log fires and eating our own weight in festive biscuits.

At this time of year, I like to start cooking with warmer flavours like late season fruits and spices – Think plums, brambles, blueberries(*), and cloves, nutmeg, and my favourite, cinnamon. . Enjoy all of this, because you know that your organic vegetable box will soon lose all the summer goodies, to be replaced with week after week after week of root vegetables…I’m seeing more than a few root vegetable-cheese sauce oven bakes over the next months.

Today’s recipe is a classic, which combines two of my very favourite ingredients. I like to use lots of blueberries in these muffins, and just a little dash of cinnamon. I want a whisper, a suggestion of the spice. These are dreamy little cakes – not as crumbly as cupcakes or Victoria sponge, as the dough has a very slight chewiness to it, which is what you want from a muffin. Also not too sweet, so you do taste the blueberries, and the cinnamon dances across your tongue. In short: they taste great and I love them. I’ve been taking one to work each day as my mid-afternoon snack, attracting some envy from colleagues.

Fortunately, this is also a very easy recipe, using the simple three-step muffin process. Step one: mix the dry ingredients. Step two: mix all the wet ingredients. Step three: mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, and stir in the blueberries. In the oven, they  puff up in a very pleasing way. Of my sixteen muffins, fourteen formed perfect voluminous domed tops, and the other two went a little bit squint. They also cracked on top in quite a pretty way, revealing a saucy little peek of the deep purple inside. Such a vivid but natural purple. I was very pleased with how these turned out.

For the fruit, you can, in my experience, use fresh or frozen with equal ease. Fresh berries will not colour the mixture before cooking, if that worries you, but other than that, I’ve made this successful with both types. I mean, these are blueberry muffins. Warm from the oven, you just know they will taste fantastic whichever way you make them.

To make 16 blueberry cinnamon muffins:

• 350g plain flour
• 2 generous teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 115g soft brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• 300ml milk
• 115g butter, melted or 120 ml corn/grapeseed oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
• 180g fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Sieve well, and put to one side.

Place the eggs, butter/oil, milk and vanilla essence in another bowl, and whisk until well combined.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and combine with a metal spoon until just combined. Some small lumps are fine. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin. Fill until just below the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden.

Worth making? These muffins are utterly delicious. Be sure to use lots of blueberries, so that you get lots of fruit in each cake, as well as the amazing deep purple colour from the juice. I’ve tried different versions – sultanas, raspberries, cranberries – but this recipe, in my view, stands out.

(*) Or blaeberries as I called as I grew up. I still instinctively think of fruits and vegetables by the names we called them in Scotland when I was a child, hence to me blackberries are brambles, and blueberries are blaeberries. And what my English friends call swede, I call turnip, and what they call turnip, I call white turnip. Food and culture, eh?

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Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

Carrot and Olive Oil Muffins

Back when I was still in high school, I had a summer job as a tour guide. It was an old jute-weaving mill which still had a few bits of original machinery, so we got a lot of people who liked to spend their free time looking at steam engines. You get the picture. It was actually quite a fun job, as you got all manner of people coming through the door. It was varied too, as we also expected to help out in the coffee shop, which meant serving, cleaning and making the cakes. One of our top sellers was a carrot cake, with a dark, soft, dense texture which was made extra-moist by using olive oil in place of butter.

I’ve made my own version of that cake over the years, feeling that the combination of carrots, nuts, sultanas and oil must be somehow good for you. At some point I started to make it with a muffin tray rather than as a large cake, as this seemed more practical, and also makes it a lot easier to take one to work for the afternoon snack. It’s funny how you start to get used to decent baked goods from your own kitchen, and at some point prefer them over the stuff you can buy. These cakes might have sugar and olive oil in them, but that must be infinitely preferable to something stuffed with transfats and corn syrup. Ah, the benefits of being virtuous!

Make 12 large or 18 normal muffins:

• 150ml olive oil (use a light oil, without a strong flavour)
• 90g soft brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 4 tablespoons milk
• 225g carrots, coarsely grated
• 25g sunflower seeds
• 50g sultanas
• 25g flaked almonds, crushed
• 150g self-raising flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), and line a muffin tray with paper cases. Set to one side.

Place the oil, sugar and egg in a bowl, and mix until combined. The mixture will emulsify and thicken slightly.

Add the carrots, milk, sunflower seeds, sultanas and almonds, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Add to the carrot mixture, and stir until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.

Put spoonfuls of the batter into the muffin trays. Be generous, as they won’t rise too much. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the muffins have risen and spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven, allow to cook slighting in the tray (10 minutes) then transfer to a rack and allow to cool completely.

If you want to make cream cheese frosting for these muffins: combine 125g full fat cream cheese and 30g softened butter until smooth. Add 125g sifted icing sugar and mix until smooth. Finally, add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and whip until fluffy. If the frosting is too runny, add more cream cheese (bizarrely, if you add more icing sugar, it will get thinner and thinner!).

Worth making? These are great if you need small cakes for a picnic or informal get-together, and make a change from plain cupcakes as they contain relatively little sugar. The olive oil also keeps them moist, so they keep well for a few days in a sealed container.

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Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things